Archive for Costa Rica Interest

Costa Rica is a country known for its laidback attitude and friendly locals. ‘Pura vida’ is the unofficial motto of this country, and it’s why they’ll take any opportunity to celebrate. During your stay, you might want to visit some of the festivals in Costa Rica. Here’s a brief insight into a number of major and minor festivals and celebrations.

Wha’ppen / Foter / CC BY-SA

National Festivals

Costa Rica is mainly a Christian country. At Christmas, you’ll see lots of celebrations, which is why a lot of visitors from Europe choose to travel at this time of year to get away from cold winters. Semana Santa during Easter Holy Week around San Jose involves a lot of different events, mainly with religious undertones.

hollywoodsmile78 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Costa Rica celebrates the patron saints. Each town and city has its own saint. The main saint’s day is for the patron saint of the country on March 19. This is known as Virgin of Los Angeles Day. Other days in celebration of specific figures include Juan Santa Maria’s Day on August 2 and Columbus Day on October 12.

Unique Events

Costa Rica has its fair share of unconventional events. There’s a tennis tournament called the Copa del Café which draws amateur teenagers from across the globe to compete in a week of tennis.

There’s the Carrera de la Paz footrace held in March. Thousands of runners start at the National Gymnasium in San Jose and race to the University for Peace campus.

For visitors interested in nature, they should visit the National Orchid Show in the Colegio de Medicos y Cirujanos in March. It’s the only festival in Costa Rica which showcases over 500 rare orchids.

Going on an Adventure

March is the main month for festivals all over Costa Rica. You can usually find events even if you aren’t situated close to the capital of San Jose.

On the second Sunday or March, San Antonio de Escazu celebrates National Oxcart Day. This unique event features 500 different types of oxcart driver and cart. The cattlemen from around the country descend upon the Bonanza Fairgrounds for the Bonanza Cattle Show just after this event. You’ll find horse races, bullfights, prize bulls, and mechanical bull machines (good luck with that!).

In April you should visit the Plaza de la Democracia in San Jose. In this plaza is the annual Festival of Native American Handicrafts. It lasts for three days and gives you ample opportunity to pick up an elegant souvenir.

Animal Events

Costa Rica is a country known for its animals. The Zapote Bullfights, or Toros a la Tica, is the most prominent animal event in the country. It’s where amateurs without professional assistance become matadors for the day. They compete with the bulls in the same way as a Spanish bullfight. The difference is they’re never hurt or killed.

Local Events

These are the main events you’ll find around Costa Rica. Many towns and villages also hold their own unofficial events. Ask around or speak to a tour guide to see if there are any events in your area.

Contact us if you would like to time your trip to Costa Rica to match a particular festival.






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It’s not hard to find animals in Costa Rica. It’s awash with birds, marine life, and howler monkeys hiding in the foliage. There are some animals which stick in the mind and which you’ll remember for a lifetime, though. We have compiled five of the weirdest animals to be found in this tropical nation. See if you can spot these beauties during your stay at Shaka.

Preparing for a trip to Costa Rica? Here’s some great reasons not to forget your camera!


Luca5 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The kinkajou is perhaps the shyest animal on this list. It’s found in the middle of Costa Rica’s jungles, usually in the darkness and out of sight of the sun. Believe it or not, it actually hates the sun and tends to hide beneath tree branches to stay out of its gaze. It won’t leave until it’s dark and safe. The tail is longer than its body. It uses it to climb trees and find food. If you find one, get the camera out quickly and stay as quiet as possible.


wallygrom / Foter / CC BY-SA

You can tell you’ve found an agouti by its size. It’s just larger than a guinea pig and you’ll find it in the picturesque Nicoya Peninsula. They used to be quite common, but they’ve since become quite rare as wild animals, which are being conserved more, use them as prey. They’re easily frightened and tend to hide in the forests. You’ll likely hear it before you see it as it has a very high pitched bark it uses to startle predators.

Blue Morpho

majamarko / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The blue morpho is one of the most famous animals in Costa Rica. This butterfly has a large wingspan of up to 20 centimetres. It’s beautiful neon coloured wings. The royal blue makes it noticeable from a distance. At one time, hunters killed them and used their wings for making jewellery.

You can tell a male from a female by looking at the wings. The males have little ridges which make the wings look metallic. This look happens due to the way the ridges reflect sunlight.

Rosy Lipped Bat Fish

reinketelaars / Foter / CC BY-SA

The rosy lipped bat fish is the cousin of the red lipped bat fish found in the Galapagos. It’s found near Cocos Island under the water. You’ll only see these if you go on a diving trip. Despite their harmlessness to humans, they’re actually some of the most feared predators for smaller fish.

They’re found deep in the ocean and have evolved to the point where their fins help them to stick to the ground so they can jump up and attack their targets before they have a chance to react.

Crab Spider

jacki-dee / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

This strange cross between a crab and a large scorpion is something of an anomaly. It looks threatening but it’s completely harmless. It’s unique because both males and females tend to die soon after breeding. You can usually find them clinging to leaves in the trees all over the country.

Have you captured any of these amazing animals on film? Share them with us on Facebook, or contact us to show off your photos on our blog!




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The Nicoya Peninsula is one of the most important tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Of all the tourist destinations in Costa Rica, this is probably the favourite for visitors who prefer to explore the hidden underbelly of this country. If you’re planning on visiting this part of the country, here are some interesting facts.

EMS Shane in Portland / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA



The Nicoya Peninsula has been a point of contention over the years. Up until the 19th century, it was under Spanish rule, along with the rest of Central America. Originally, it was part of Nicaragua. In 1824 it voted to secede from the country and join Costa Rica. It’s still a hot topic of discussion today.

Why Less Travelled?


marissa_strniste / Foter / CC BY

When people witness the natural beauty of this region, they often wonder why more people don’t come here. It’s simple. Up until recently, the Costa Rican government in San Jose didn’t see the area as a priority. As a result, they didn’t bother upgrading the roads or improving the infrastructure in the area.

It’s one of the few major holiday destinations which has been left almost completely untouched. Its virgin beauty is why you often find hippie beach towns in this part of the world.

Blue Zone


CostaRicaColor / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s not just a favourite place for tourists to visit. A lot of people choose to live here. It’s located on the pristine Costa Rican Pacific Coast where it sits on a transitional zone. This transitional zone is a cross between the tropical zone towards the south of the country and the more barren Northern Guancaste area to the north.

World bodies have declared the Nicoya Peninsula one of four world blue zones. A blue zone is where people can live for over one hundred years without any major complaints. It’s partly due to the lifestyle and partly due to the pleasurable living conditions.



allan.rojas / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

There are three ways to visit the Peninsula. You can travel from Puntarenas via ferry and arrive in Naranjo or Paquera. You can travel from Liberia and enter from the north by crossing the Tempisque Bridge. Alternatively, fly into Tambor or Nosara Airport using one of the daily flights.

ekonon / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


There are too many different attractions here, so these are the main things you’ll discover in the Nicoya Peninsula:

  • Almost 80 miles of beach along the Pacific Coast.
  • Near permanent sunshine.
  • A diverse eco system.
  • Plenty of resorts and lots of activities, such as yoga and surfing, for guests.
  • National parks and nature reserves preserving some of the rarest animals in the world.
JHochstat / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s clear why this is one of the best tourist destinations in Costa Rica to visit. It’s constantly becoming more developed. You’ll find high-speed WiFi in a lot of towns and places like Montezuma have growing expat communities. Come and visit the Nicoya Peninsula and experience the sights and sounds it has to offer. We’d love to hear from you, stop by and say hi on Facebook, or Contact us for more information.


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It’s the question on any first-time visitor’s mind, is Spanish necessary to get by? Costa Rica’s primary language is Spanish so it would really help if you could churn out a few words. If you’re travelling for a standard family surf vacation, you can probably get away without learning Spanish. Many expats get away without ever speaking a word of the language.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to pick up a few words of the language. It opens far more doors and enables you to explore the country more intimately.

Tourist Destination

discopalace / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

In destinations like Montezuma you won’t need to speak Spanish. It’s a popular tourist destination and all the locals speak English to communicate with the passing trade. This is especially true in the shops and beach bars you’ll encounter. The same thing applies to surf camps and yoga retreats high in the country’s forests and mountains.

Since this is a country which relies so much on tourism, the locals have taken up English as it’s the standard language shared between most visitors.

Younger Generations

You’ll have few problems interacting with younger people. Schools actively promote English lessons as they acknowledge it’s such an important part of the country. Foreign investment in surf & yoga in Costa Rica makes up for a large portion of the nation’s total income. Without the ability to speak English, it would deter many of these tourists from visiting.

It’s the older generations you’ll have problems dealing with. English study in the national curriculum is recently new. Older people won’t have grown up with the language and will have little desire to learn it now. You might need a translator if you’re dealing with them.


smilla4 / Foter / CC BY-NC

There’s so much more to Costa Rica than Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. These are the destinations everyone knows about. If you want to dive deeper and get closer to the heart of the country, you have to explore the villages and small communities in the interior. It’s what makes the experience so magical.

These villages don’t rely on tourism and still focus on agriculture and handcrafts. They aren’t primitive or backwards, they just have little contact with foreigners because most stick to the coastline and major urban areas.

You should expect to learn some Spanish if you want to visit these places.

Easy Language

The good news is most English speakers will find Spanish one of the easiest languages they can learn. It doesn’t have lots of different tenses and conjugations and it isn’t difficult to pronounce. Most of the words roll off the tongue and even broken Spanish will endear you to the locals.

Many of your hosts will speak Spanish as well as English. Be proactive and ask them to teach you a few words of Spanish. Most will be delighted and appreciate the effort on your part. Even learning the basics like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can do a lot for you. You can let lots of pointing take care of the rest!

everywhereATonce / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


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For a country famous for its beaches and forests, visitors often find the sheer number of environments surprising once they get to Costa Rica. You need to prepare for each of these environments so you can feel comfortable and ready to experience your next unforgettable travel moment. Using our experience residing in this country for many years, we’ve developed a list of the most important points you need to know about each area.

The Beaches

surf school

At our surf school, you’ll be doing all your learning on white sandy beaches. Costa Rica is just north of the equator and has very hot and humid days. A swimsuit is what most people wear. Dress very casual and don’t be afraid to dress light and casual. It’s normal for Ticos, so there’s no need to worry about offending anyone. Check out our packing tips for more information.

The only thing you should watch out for is the mosquitoes. Wear some mosquito repellent during your time on the beach. You can find it for sale practically everywhere during your stay.

San Jose and Central Valley

Captain Kimo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The capital of Costa Rica and the surrounding area are roughly 3,000-5,000 feet above sea level. If you venture into this area of the country, bring lots of sun protection. Wear a hat, rub cream over yourself, and dress in cool and airy clothing. From late May until November, you’ll need an umbrella as it’s rainy season.

During the ‘green season’ you can expect it to rain regularly in these areas. It rains almost constantly here due to the high elevation.

The Highlands

-stëve- / Nature Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Monte Verde, Lake Arenal, and the Arenal Volcano are well-travelled parts of the country. Horseback rides, camping, and hiking are common here. If you’re taking a break from your family surf vacation, take a varied amount of clothing. The Highlands have temperatures ranging from scorching to cool and rainy.

To make it easier for you, take both your Central Valley and beach outfits along with you, as well as some sturdy hiking boots.


-stëve- / Water Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Dress VERY light in the rainforests. It’s the most humid place in the country. You’ll get just as soaked as you would at our surf school here. Take a poncho with you to protect your clothing as much as possible. To prevent insect bites, wear repellent and long trousers.

Don’t wear anything scented as this will just attract everything to you. Wear a strong pair of walking boots and a hat to protect your head. It can feel uncomfortable with the high humidity, but Costa Rica’s rich ecological systems make trekking through the forests a must.

Buy Here?

We recommend you buy some basic clothing in Santa Teresa or Playa Hermosa. When you learn to surf in Costa Rica you’ll find lots of surf shops and independent dealers. Most of the stuff will be cheaper than back in your own country. Support the local economy and cut down on your travel costs by buying local during your vacation.

Plus, it gives you the chance to interact with some of the locals and try out your Spanish skills.

Feel free to contact us with any questions regarding your stay at the Shaka beach Retreat

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Rare Penguin Sighting in Costa Rica

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So I went down to check the waves this morning and found much more than I was looking for. As I came through the tall sloping coconut trees at the edge of the beach I noticed an unfamiliar creature waddling out of the water in my direction. As we approached each other I could see more clearly that the creature was black and white and had something red around its neck. Getting even closer I determined that what I was looking at was none other than a penguin! But how impossible? There are no penguins in Costa Rica. It is way too hot for a penguin around here.


I scratched my head and figured I’d wait a few seconds to wake up from this silly dream, but I could smell the sea breeze and feel my fingernails on my scalp. Was this really a penguin I was seeing? And what was with the red thing on its neck? It kept waddling closer and closer in my direction (I assumed it was in search of some cool shade) and I did not wake up. I I ran back to Shaka to get my camera and tell the others. Everyone was still asleep so I ran back to the beach to take advantage of this totally Nat Geo opportunity.

Luckily, the penguin was still there and hadn’t moved much. As I got closer I saw that it was very large, like the size of a grown man, and it had a surfboard under one of its ‘wings.’ Also, the red thing on its neck was a big floppy bowtie. WTF?

Turns out it was not a REAL penguin. It was Steve (!), our cheeky Canadian guest, sporting his penguin costume he brought down for Halloween. How could I forget?

these kids were stoked to meet a Canadian

Although Steve is not a real penguin, he did say he felt like one, sweating his feathers off in that suit. And he still made a great subject for a photo shoot, regardless of the fact that I will not be sending my pics in to National Geographic now.

In more serious news, we have a new volunteer here that is not me, which means I shall be moving on soon. I have been invited to stay and help with the upcoming OHG (Ocean Healing Group) camp but I will probably have to sleep in a hammock (something I do rather often anyways). It sounds like a cool opportunity but I also wouldn’t mind getting out to see a bit more of the country in my remaining two weeks here in Costa Rica. Hmm, what to do….Any suggestions for a surfer dude on a $300 budget?

Pura Vida


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New Irish Volunteer at Shaka

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Hola! I’m Erica, Shaka’s first Irish volunteer. I’ve been here a few weeks and it’s been great. Playa Hermosa is like a desert island – coconuts and driftwood being lapped by the waves and howler monkeys swinging from the trees. The best view of the playa is from “out the back” beyond the broken waves, where I was catching (or rather attempting to catch) green waves with Chris, Shaka’s surf instructor and one of the guests last week. You can sit on your board and take it all in while you wait for the next wave…nothing but lush forest canopy from the hills to the shore.  It was one of those perfect days – clean, consistent waves, not a cloud in the sky and very few surfers out. If only I could find me lucky charms that Chris winds me up about, every day would be like that!

Surfing here in warm water and hot weather is quite different to memories of surfing in Ireland – squeezing into wet, thick wetsuits, turning blue and numb, teeth chattering, and racing from the blustery weather for a hot shower! Ireland makes up for its weather in other ways, but I’m happy in Costa Rica for now and looking forward to improving my surfing 🙂



Greetings from Shaka, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about what we are doing and hope to be doing in the comming months leading to 2012.

Its currently the rainy season so its nice to have a slow down. It lets us refresh ourselves, reflect on the past year and do some maintenance, as well as dream and imagine possible new things and ideas that we would like to implement in the near future. Here is a summary of  things recently or in the near future

1. First off we had a good year so far. It was ou busiest year even in this down economy. Shaka as well as OHG is maturing and improving. We are excited to head into the new season right around the corner.

2. In August We started fixing and repairing surfboards, Our surfboard fleet was getting a bit dinged up and a our broken board pile was adding up. Shaka invested in the proper equipment and material to do proffesional board repair. The hassle, expense and delay of paying board fixers is now behind us. We now have Alejandro who has shown an instinctive talent in board repair and painting keeping us sharp

3. Ted a Volunteer with OHG has launched a campaign to get Shaka a SWIMMING POOL. You told me to hold you to it Ted, so here it is. I hear that he has already raised over half the money, so hopefully any one who visits shaka in 2012 will be able to enjoy this addition.

4. We plan on launching a project to turn the Rancho common area into a work of art incorporating Mayan, Polynesian and tribal style artwork. Headed By Chris. More info on this comming soon.

5. Our next OHG group is planned to take place in November just before the upcomming 2011 season.

6. Krista is putting together a yoga adventure package. All inclusive 7 day packages based at Shaka but daily yoga excursions to all the world class studios in the Montezuma, Mal Pais, Santa Teresa and Hermosa areas.